Animal Instinct reviewed…

I recently reviewed Dorothy Hayes’ Animal Instinct for the Vegan Freak Radio podcast.

In recent days I was contacted – out of the blue – by Dorothy with very positive comments on this review (Bob and Jenna were also very generous in theirs). The email included the following:

Thanks for the most in-depth review thus far of Animal Instinct. You understood my efforts on several levels, for which I am eternally grateful! …. This one gets a frame!’ and ‘I’ve sent it to several magazines and will keep you posted on developments. When I exhibit my novel in LA this October at Tom Regan’s conference, it’ll be a handout and framed sitting on top of the table.

Here is the review itself:

Animal Instinct by Dorothy H. Hayes.

Animal Instinct is a page-turner. I progressed through the 232 pages in less than two days leaving me searching for another easy-to-read yet socially aware novel. It includes good social commentary, at times detracting from the story itself, that is worthy of reflection and consideration for all involved in animal protectionist movements.

The crossover between hinted details of campaigns and, at times purposively distorted representations that fit well within the story, provide somewhat of a primer to those in the abolitionist movement and the challenges on many levels socially as well as with welfarism based approaches. Animal Instinct also goes much further through highlighting many of the broader social/inter-personal challenges that permeate into animal organizations. These range from subtle comments on individual actions (implications to strict vegetarianism as opposed to veganism) through to direct illustrations of exploitative practices of many in the constructed hierarchies of the animal protectionist movements.
Alongside these references to what those involved in some level of animal protection will be aware, Animal Instinct includes detail – including facts and figures – of animal abuse for those who are newer to the issues. The impetus for inclusion of these is clear and at times this works well, yet at others it detracts from the story. This is perhaps the weakest aspect of the novel. I also found the conclusion a little fast in coming and short on detail… These are minor issues on the scale of things. Readability is very high.

Much of the inferences to the workings of animal protectionist organizations, whilst names are changed – with several real-life people melded together into specific individual characters and the timelines a little distorted – indicate many lessons we can draw from reading this novel. Those with more detailed inside knowledge of past campaigns will be able to decipher many of these multiple personalities, and also locate specific references to well-known (or less) individual traits.

Deborah Hayes’ experiences and knowledge gained through working both as a journalist and for the organization Friends of Animals are clear – as indicated in her multiple real-life persona characters and many of the events in the book. This does not, however, afford reference to Animal Instinct as autobiographical – as some reviews provide – any substantive basis. Further, some reviews do little to fully consider the exposed exploitative nature of people within the animal protectionist movements to the point of both falsely stating them and clearly misrepresenting them. For me, this clearly highlights the painful lack of awareness of broader social issues and ills by many engaged in animal protection – something Animal Instinct touches on.

The direct (and often not-so-direct) references in Animal Instinct to real-world situations (if skewed a little time-wise) include the impacts of seminal works like Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, Tom Reagan’s The Case for Animal Rights and Gary Francione’s Rain Without Thunder in the context of the direct influences they have. This provides a means for everyone concerned with animal protection – whether long or short term – to learn and draw from.

To finish with, and indicative of another strength of Animal Instinct, Dorothy Hayes does attempt to place the exploitative practices of some in the animal protection movement within specific contexts. This does not appear to be as providing a means for justification of such actions, rather to understand – clearly indicating one of the many challenges we continually face in working towards holistic social change. Such change is necessary and essential for the liberation of all species. This is one aspect of the Animal Instinct – even if not fully realised by Dorothy Hayes herself – that is of immense value.

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